Almond Thins

[image: almond thin cookies and adorable owl mugs]

[image: almond thin cookies and adorable owl mugs]

I don’t actually know why I thought this, but I thought I needed a cookie that would stack easily for a gift. It’s not like I was mailing them, so I really didn’t, but that was my thought process. I gave them as gifts to my hair gal and an old pal of mine from work. Flo Braker’s original recipe didn’t include any salt, so I rectified that.

So the original yield is 80–90 cookies, but I only got about 55. I just couldn’t slice it thinly enough. You need a really thin, really sharp knife—which I thought I had, but apparently it wasn’t quite thin and sharp enough. Honestly, I think you need like a meat slicer for this.

What I did with my scraps and mis-cuts was to roll them out super-thin between some parchment and cut rectangles from there. You get a difference in how the almonds interact with the dough (they’ll be flat instead of cut across). They won’t look as interesting, in my opinion, but it is an option. I didn’t notice them getting tough because of the extra working of the dough, which is good.

You may notice after a few days that the cookies soften (and depending on the humidity, it could be the very next day). To crisp the cookies back up, I slid them into my toaster oven for a couple minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Excellent with tea! Aren’t those cute mugs?

1 stick butter, cubed
1 1/3 cup coarse golden sugar (demerara, washed raw sugar, or turbinado—I used Sugar in the Raw)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup water
2 1/3 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup sliced almonds

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat with the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and water. Stir until the butter just melts and remove promptly from heat. Don’t let the sugar dissolve.

Mix the butter mixture with the flour, baking soda, and almonds until combined. Press the dough into the prepared loaf pan. Cover with additional plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the dough and smoothing the top. Chill until firm. (I found that a refrigerator chill was not enough to keep the shape while slicing, so I had to freeze it nearly solid.)

Line baking sheets with parchment (don’t use a silpat, they won’t get crisp enough). Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Using a very, very sharp and thin knife, carefully slice the loaf into pieces narrow as possible. Place on the baking sheets about 1/2–1″ apart (they will spread slightly due to the baking soda—I foolishly thought they wouldn’t and my first batch had a couple merge into each other). (Also see above for my solution to scraps.)

Bake for 10–15 minutes, then carefully flip the cookies over with a spatula and continue baking for an additional 10–15 minutes (the time will depend on how thin you were able to cut the slices). You want them to be a deep golden-brown. Cool completely on a rack.

Tête de Moine

[image: tete de moine cheese ruffle]

[image: tête de moine cheese ruffle]

Tête de Moine (Monk’s Head) is a very fun (and stinky!) cheese. You buy it in whole wheels and shave off thin curls with a device called a Girolle. In French, girolles are a type of chanterelle mushroom, and the device was named for the beautiful curls of cheese it produces which are supposed to resemble the mushroom cap.

[image: girolle cheese slicer with tete de moine]

[image: girolle cheese shaver with tête de moine]

It used to be damn near impossible to locate a Girolle in America, but then internet shopping was invented, so now they’re easy to find on Amazon. You can actually get the cheese on Amazon as well, although I was able to find it at Whole Foods (well, I had to call around and go a couple Whole Foods down the road, but still—I found it locally).

So the trick with the Girolle is that you don’t press down too hard. Light pressure, move it in a circle. Too much downward pressure and you risk cracking the wheel. The purpose of the frilly cheese flowers (besides looking pretty) is that they expose a bunch of surface area to the air which helps maximize the smell (I did mention it was a smelly cheese) and develop the flavor.

I am amused by the official Tête de Moine website. It has a specific section for recipes, but since how the cheese is served is as important as the cheese itself, all the recipes are basically “Make a thing and then put a cheese curl on top.”

This is a really fun addition to any hors d’oeuvres spread. The presentation is beautiful, and it’s fun to shave and serve. To my friends: I’ll put out an APB on Twitter the next time we buy a wheel, and you can come over and try it. Highly recommended!

Lupicia Lucky Bag

[image: nine bags of loose tea from Lupicia]

[image: nine bags of loose tea from Lupicia]

I went into San Francisco yesterday and stopped at Lupicia, one of my favorite tea retailers. I was there to pick up some loose leaf La Belle Epoque, my go-to for “tea-flavored tea.”

While I was there I noticed that they had a display of lucky bags (well, boxes, but same thing). Fukubukuro are a big thing with Japanese stores. They’re a grab bag sold at a discount. I was surprised to see they had any left (stores sell them for the New Year), but I picked up one for $30.

Here’s what was inside (and their descriptions from Lupicia’s website):

  • Momo Oolong Super Grade (retail price $13.00) Savor the succulent flavor and aroma of Japanese white peach in this Taiwanese pouchong blend accented with pink rose petals.
  • Sakurambo (retail price $6.50) Black tea flavored with Japanese cherries, which has a sweet and fruity aroma.
  • Tikuanyin (retail price $11.00) Oolong tea from Fujian province has a rich taste and sweet aroma.
  • Darjeeling Second Flush (retail price $8.50) A blend of summer-plucked Darjeeling tea. Often referred to as “Champagne of teas”.
  • Afternoon Tea (retail price $6.00) A blend of light-bodied Darjeeling and full-bodied Assam. Can be served with milk.
  • Matcha Black Soybean Rice Tea (retail price $5.00) A genmaicha (rice tea) blended with black beans and matcha, to promote “healthy living”.
  • Strawberry & Vanilla (retail price $6.50) Green tea with matcha is flavored with sweet fragrance of strawberry and vanilla.
  • Muscat (retail price $6.50) Refreshing taste of muscat offers an interesting impression. Ideal choice for an iced tea.
  • Cookie (retail price $7.00) Black tea scented with an image of freshly baked caramel cookies. Best served with milk.

So that’s $70 worth of tea for $30! I have had the Momo Oolong before and loved it, but it’s expensive so I’ve only purchased it once. I have sipped my way through several bags of Sakurambo in the past, I like it a lot. The rest are new to me, and I’m very excited to try them all! The only one I’m a bit leery of is the Muscat, but I think I’ll take their advice and brew it for iced tea.

Curried Eggplant Pickle Relish

[image: six small white eggplants]

[image: six small white eggplants]

This was my final harvest of the Casper eggplants. Six li’l guys. I pickled them using a curry pickle recipe, thinking “eggplant + curry = good.” But once pickled, I realized I had failed to take into account their texture. Eggplants are way softer than cucumbers and peppers. So when I bit into one, I didn’t get a crisp snap, just a sort of softened press. Not a great sensation. But although the texture was off, the flavor was still good, so I chopped up the eggplant flesh and made it into a relish.

(This was the smaller of the two jars seen in the Tomolives post.)

Enough eggplant to fill a 1-quart jar once peeled and cut into spears
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp whole allspice
3/4″ fresh ginger root, thinly sliced

Peel and cut the eggplant into spears. Put the ginger, whole allspice, and cumin seeds in the bottom of your pickling container (as mentioned in my last post, I use old yogurt tubs), then pack in the eggplant. Bring the vinegar, water, salt, and curry powder to a boil for 5 minutes. Carefully pour into pickling container.

Let develop in the refrigerator for 1–2 weeks, stirring every other day or so. Remove eggplant and dice, removing seeds if necessary (since I was using tiny eggplants, this was not a problem). Strain the pickling brine and discard the solids. Pack the diced eggplant into your final jar and pour strained liquid over top (discard any extra). Store in fridge, use on hot dogs and the like.

Tomolives

[image: jars of tomolives and curry eggplant relish]

[image: jars of tomolives and curry eggplant relish]

More pickles! These two jars I prepared for my friend Lydia, owner of the blog Truffle Wants Snacks. The larger jar on the left contains Tomolives, which are apparently a Southern thing. I made them with green Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and darkened-a-bit-but-still-not-totally-ripe Indigo Rose tomatoes from my garden. Clearly I picked these a while ago—back in November after the frosts became unbearable for my plants. I was trying to find pickle recipes for green tomatoes, and came across a couple promising posts.

This line, from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen immediately jumped out at me:

Tomolives are just wonderful in a martini, served as a casual appetizer, skewered with sharp cheese, or plucked from the jar while you stare into the depths of the refrigerator wondering what to have for lunch.

Martinis, appetizers, cheese. Check, check, check. These are some of the many fine qualities that Lydia brings to a friendship.

(The curry eggplant relish recipe will be coming in a few days!)

1 quart unripe small or cherry tomatoes
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp white granulated sugar
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
2 small red chili peppers (SUPER CHILIS!)

With a toothpick, skewer, or knife, poke holes in each tomato (I used a toothpick and poked them from the stem end down to the opposite end). Place the chilis, bay leaves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and mustard seeds in the bottom of a 1-quart jar. Pack the tomatoes in on top.

Boil the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic cloves together for 5 minutes. Carefully pour into the jar. Refrigerate for a week before eating.

(I don’t actually pickle in the jars, I use cleaned 32-oz yogurt containers and then transfer them into the nicer jars when it comes time for presentation. Allows me to make sure all the good stuff is on top. If you do this, during the initial pickling give them a stir every so often to make sure everything get submerged equally.)

Happy New Year 2016!

Resolutions are arbitrary bullshit, but whatever, might as well.

  1. floss daily
  2. make bed daily
  3. do something connected to sewing daily
  4. do (at least) one Rosetta Stone lesson daily (until mid-March-ish)
  5. blog… okay, not daily, but more

One day down! 365 to go (damn you, leap year).

Latkes

[image: menorah and latkes]

[image: menorah and latkes]

Happy Hanukkah! My dad makes the BEST latkes. I ate four tonight. I wanted to eat a dozen. Those are chives sprinkled on the sour cream there; the contrasting color helped the photo. (But also they were tasty.)

5 medium russet potatoes (about 2.5–3 lbs total)
1/2 medium onion
1 Tbsp table salt (technically 1/2 tsp salt per potato, but we rounded up)
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp flour or matzoh meal
1 tsp baking soda
Lots of vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup olive oil for frying
kosher salt
sour cream or applesauce to serve

Important tools are an electric fryer (my dad uses an electric wok) and a food processor with coarse shredding disc.

Wash and dry potatoes; leave skin on. Shred potatoes in food processor. Shred onion in food processor.

Mix potato, onion, salt, pepper, garlic, 2 Tbsp olive oil and flour (or matzoh meal) in large bowl. Add baking soda and stir to combine.

Pour the 1/4 cup olive oil and however much vegetable oil you need in your frying vessel. Heat oil mixture to 375 degrees F. While the oil is heating, occasionally press down on the potato mixture and drain the resulting liquid into another bowl (to discard later).

Take a blob of potato mixture and press out liquid to make a 3-inch disk. Slide carefully into hot oil. Make a batch of 6. Fry until golden brown and delicious (this is an eyeball estimation), turning them occasionally in the oil to cook both sides. Remove to a rack on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with kosher salt, then move the sheet to a 275 degree oven while you fry the rest of them.

Let oil temperature recover between batches.

This should make 3 batches of 6 latkes each. Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Blogtober and NaBlogWriMo: Project COMPLETE!

Woo, round of applause for me! I was able to keep up my promise of a blog post a day for two months! Let’s take a look at the numbers:

23 recipes
11 minutiae
9 gardening
8 travel
8 food commentary
2 sewing
1 cosplay
1 crafts
1 gaming

That totals up to 64 instead of 61, but I double-categorized a couple posts.

Will I do this again next year? I don’t know. Maybe. I was seriously scraping the bottom of the barrel with a few posts. But until then, I’m going to try and post more frequently.

At least once a week.

I promise?

Cinnamon Bread Pudding

[image: cinnamon bread pudding]

[image: cinnamon bread pudding]

I don’t really have much to say about this recipe. It’s really tasty. Assemble the night before, bake in the morning, devour for brunch.

For some reason I decided to turn the broiler on briefly at the end—I thought the crumb topping was supposed to melt, I guess? Don’t do that. That was a mistake. Thankfully I stopped myself before I burnt it. Still, there’s some darker sections. My bad.

[image: cinnamon bread pudding—you can see some of the overbrowned bits]

[image: cinnamon bread pudding—you can see that I overbrowned some of it]

cooking spray
1 loaf challah (the one I used had raisins, but any challah should work)
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp + 1/2 tsp kosher salt, separated
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 stick butter, COLD, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch fresh grated nutmeg

Prepare a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Cut the challah into cubes (1-inch or so). If your bread is fresh, dry out the cubes in a low oven for 10–15 minutes or leave out on the counter for a few hours. Put them in the 9×13.

In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream, white granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Whisk to combine. Pour over the bread. Smush the bread into the liquid a bit. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, heat the oven to 350. In a food processor or mini-prep (or by hand with a pastry blender sort of thing), pulse the butter with the flour. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and pulse a few more times to combine. You should have a crumb-like texture. Sprinkle evenly over the bread, making sure to get all the way out to the edges.

Bake at 350 for 45–50 minutes. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes before cutting.

[image: cinnamon bread pudding, I couldn't decide which photo I liked better]

[image: cinnamon bread pudding at a slightly more dramatic angle]

Chipotle-Maple Sweet Potatoes with Spiced Pecans

This is what I ended up putting together as our sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving. One word of advice: if you have leftovers, I wouldn’t recommend keeping the pecans on top. They get soft and sad. Scrape them off and just eat them. Then the next time you serve them, chop up some more and re-top.

between 3 and 3.5 pounds sweet potatoes/garnet yams, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp maple syrup, grade B
1 tsp chipotle powder (or 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced + 1 tsp adobo sauce from the can)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 to 1 cup Spiced Pecans, chopped (depends on the surface area on top of your serving dish how much you’ll need to cover it)

First, make the Spiced Pecans (it says you can use any mixture of nuts in that recipe—for this application, just use pecans).

Steam sweet potatoes in a steamer basket over simmering water for 20 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. (This took me two rounds, but you might be better at fitting in all the sweet potato cubes.)

Empty into a bowl and add the butter and cream. Mash with a potato masher. With a large spatula or spoon, fold in the maple syrup, chipotle, and salt. Taste and adjust for seasonings (not just salt, but the chipotle as well—these aren’t super-spicy, so you can totally add more).

Transfer the sweet potatoes to a serving dish and sprinkle an even layer of pecans on top.